Our Story Matters

Every family encouraged their children and community to celebrate diversity, eat healthy, and stay fit.

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Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

Our team is just beginning our fifth year serving one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Tennessee, located just outside of Nashville. We have learned so many lessons on how to authentically mobilize and engage families, using fitness, wellness, and diversity as the anchor. The story of our team is one of collaboration across 650 students and families, and a network of 20 organizational partners. We reside where safe sidewalks and access to healthy, fresh food is limited.

We have found the stories of our students and families so inspiring that we are dedicating resources to train teams of teachers, students, and families on how to connect active lifestyle and wellbeing with local partners in the surrounding region.

We are integrating active lifestyle activities, for families, into our core programming, including "Zumba for All" classes every week, at no cost to participating families (parents and children). These classes reinforce the integration of healthy eating habits.

We are collaborating with a local community college, university school of business, and local food entrepreneur to implement, healthy eating workshops that include family fun cook-offs and the publication of a healthy eating cookbook, representing the exceptional diversity of our community, comprised of over 12 different languages, spoken at home.

These projects are serving as a successful Springboard for more empowered active lifestyle experiences.

Which categories describe you? (the answer will not be public)

  • Asian (for example: Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Pakistani)
  • Black or African American (for example: African American, Jamaican, Haitian, Nigerian, Ethiopian, Somalian)
  • Hispanic, Latinx, or Spanish origin (for example: Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuba, Salvadoran, Dominican, Colombian)
  • Middle Eastern or North African (for example: Lebanese, Iranian, Egyptian, Syrian, Moroccan, Algerian)
  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French, Caucasian)
  • Self-identify race, ethnicity, or origin

If you chose to self-identify your race, ethnicity, or origin, please share here: (the answer will not be public)

Our families speak over 12 different languages at home. The most common are Spanish and Arabic.

Website

http://www.kayouth.org

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • Tennessee

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]

Antioch

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • Tennessee

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]

Antioch, TN 37013
South Davidson County, Tennessee

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

In October 2015, our city’s publication of record, The Tennessean, highlighted a substantial need for a healthier lifestyle among children in our neighborhood.

According to the Kids Count 2015 report, four (4) out of six (6) surrounding counties are ranked in the top 6 out of 95 counties, while our community is ranked number 87. See, http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2015/10/03/nashville-gets-bad-report-card-childrens-well-being/73242300/.

In August 2016, the Tennessean published a follow-up article detailing how over ¼ of adults report very low physical activity over a 30 day period, and that the healthcare gap is increasing. See, http://tnne.ws/2bgi2ZE.

We have used this data to mobilize action in the following areas:

1. Daily physical activity
2. Healthy eating habits
3. Access to fresh food
4. Access to health screenings
5. Connecting passion to a purpose

The strength of our team and our solution resides in our diversity, and we invest a significant amount of time and resources cultivating an exceptionally diverse team and network of partners, in support of promoting children’s wellbeing.

Our team consists of a balance of teachers, learning coaches, student life coaches, leadership coaches, a full time nurse, and numerous organizational partners, 20 total.

Beginning our 5th year of operations, we have a demonstrated financial record of self sufficiency on public dollars (state and local).

We use additional grants to increase the scale and impact of our work with students and families, in our region, and beyond.

We have also partnered with an education residency program that focuses on recruiting students of color into serving and teaching our youth. This has allowed our team to increase the depth of our talent pipeline in a way that empowers entrepreneurship, student leadership, and active lifestyle habits.

Our diversity is reflected through our people, our programs, and our partners.

Our people (The Support Team).

Unity through Community.

Our support team reflects the population of students and families that we serve, of which 45 percent are African American, 30 percent are Hispanic, 20 percent are Arabic (multi-ethnic descent), 2 percent are European, 2 percent are multi-ethnic, and 1 percent are Asian. About 20 percent of our students are English Language Learners and 12 percent are students with disabilities.

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For the second year in a row, we are recognized as the only public charter school in metropolitan Nashville, as measured by Metro Nashville Public Schools, to meet or surpass all major- and sub- categories for diversity, for all teaching staff, all operational staff, and for all students including English Language Learners (ELLs) and Students with Disabilities (Individuals with Disabilities Act). This includes indicators for race/ethnicity, income, language, and disability.

See, https://app.box.com/files/0/f/8058122645/1/f_66957960025.

Our programs (The Levers for Changemaking)

We have long standing partnerships with over 20 organizations focused on the following areas of children’s wellbeing:

  1. Social Media & Leadership Voice

Positive Social Media Messaging & Monthly Active Lifestyle Themes

We use the web to integrate and celebrate positive social media messages, revolving around active lifestyle habits. See, http://www.kafitness.org/weekly_updates.

Our team facilitates peer groups among students and families in which physical activity goals are celebrated and posted on social media, on a weekly basis.

This positive social media messaging helps reinforce momentum towards active lifestyle habits, across our community.

Our team uses and promotes monthly family activity calendars as ongoing opportunities for students and families to share together in active lifestyle habits.

Each month, our community focuses on a different lifestyle theme, ranging from physical activity to healthy food recipes and nutrition. See, http://eepurl.com/b_Y87r.

Last academic year, over 100 of our students and 30 of our families participated in positive social media peer groups, integrating the Fitbit platform. Monthly meetings and celebrations focused on the promotion of a healthy and active lifestyle reinforced the creation of stronger community groups.

Semi-annual Social Media Leadership Summits

Beginning this year, we will support positive social media messaging with semi-annual summits in which our students share their passion, lifestyle, and voice through the creation of social media profile pages.

These pages will share best examples of student life, leadership, and learning experiences.

Profile pages will be shared broadly across our community with our partners, students, and families.

Celebration themes focus on learning style, leadership voice, and leadership actions. The purpose of sharing the social media profiles is to demonstrate how all members of our community have the capacity to lead and inspire others.

These profiles are cultivated and developed in classroom settings, presented in small peer groups, leading to shared Summit-based question and answer forums, held in front of engaged families, businesses, and community partners.

Student Voice & Leadership Council

Beginning this year, we are convening a Student Voice & Leadership Council who will be trained in habits of changemaking and empowered to lead new ideas, projects, and connections within our community, that form stronger student to family to community connections.

This Council is provided the forum to meet with our leadership team every month, and also submit formal student voice proposals throughout the academic year. As proposals are refined and improved they are green-lighted for implementation across our community with the support of other student leaders, mentors, and teachers . Successful projects have the capacity to impact the daily lives of over 700 students and families, just within our local campus.

See, https://goo.gl/forms/Z0M1FHydJpshqEmD3, for an example Student Voice proposal format. All proposals must amplify positive social media messaging and active healthy lifestyle themes.

Our partners (The Networks for Changemaking)

  1. Partnerships that reinforce healthy lifestyle habits.

Fresh Food & Produce Partnerships

Our team is collaborating with the Belmont University School of Business, Enactus Belmont Student group, and Nashville State University to make sustainable fresh food partnerships in which families receive and learn how to cook fresh food grown by a local non profit Cul2vate Nashville. See https://www.cul2vate.org/.

This includes three (3) workshops per semester for families, led by cooks from some of Nashville’s leading restaurants and eateries.

Families learn how to prepare fresh dishes with fresh produce, and receive a fresh food box every two weeks delivered to our school for pick up.

Semi-annual Health and Wellness Fairs

Our team hosts semi-annual health and wellness fairs (winter & spring) which also include health screenings.

Participating partners include.

  1. Total Health, Meharry Medical College (Health Screenings)
  2. Well Child (Hearing & Vision Screenings)
  3. Revolution Foods (Healthy Food Options)
  4. Nashville Predators Fitness Challenge
  5. New Vision, Inc. (Social Services, Social-emotional Peer Groups)
  6. Nashville Adult Literacy Council  (English Language Learning & Citizenship Classes)
  7.         Nashville Public LIbrary  (Mobile Library) 
  1. Specialized peer groups anchored in social emotional learning.

Every week we host social emotional learning peer groups for students, in partnership with New Vision, Inc.

Students are identified for participation in the group based on the level of social emotional learning referrals which occur throughout the school day.

Participants work through a series of small group workshops, which can include home visits, based on mutual agreement with each participating student and family.

Quarterly reviews are held to determine if positive progress is being made, using metrics such as reductions in school day referrals, which show positive metrics.

  1. Demonstrating how entrepreneurship can be used to foster healthy lifestyle habits that have the power to also lead others.

Our team reaches out to surrounding universities and start-up accelerators that are interested in creating products that impact the active and healthy lifestyles of students and families.

We provide the opportunity for individuals and start-up organizations, that are aligned with our mission, to gain feedback from our students on the appeal and/or relevance of their newly proposed product.

This reinforces, with our students, that their voice and their ideas matter in the real economy and marketplace.

To date, we have partnered with several individuals and organizations, including Fathom PBC, a youth entrepreneurship organization testing concepts of crowdsourcing grassroot ideas within a change agent marketplace.

Our team and our students are working with Fathom to refine and improve their product Beta, and ideas tailored for the growing Nashville economy and beyond.

This refinement includes interviews with students, reflecting on the proposed Beta, and reflective writing on how the Beta might be improved, as the targeted audience.

Here is a link to an executive summary proposal from Fathom, https://app.box.com/s/1slut7r9ygqwboclan5bdxj2icf4m6ax.

Our students are being provided the opportunity to review, provide feedback, and shape the proposal. This process further develops their authentic leadership voice and belief in the impact of their words and actions in promoting change.

  1. Providing teams of teachers with ongoing training on how they can integrate support for children’s wellbeing into daily classroom instruction.

Our team spends time over the summer engaged in professional development that emphasizes the significance of developing social emotional skills, awareness of diversity, and habits in students, including daily classroom supports that can leverage the different learning styles of students towards the development of their authentic leadership and learning voice.

We are scheduling bi-monthly diversity awareness training for our team, delivered in partnership with an experienced diversity consultant.

Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • Communities of color
  • Children who are differently abled
  • Religious minorities (non-Christian)
  • Low-income communities

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Child and Family Services
  • Community Development and Empowerment
  • Education
  • Mental Health

Year Founded

2012

Project Stage

  • Growth (the pilot has already launched and is starting to expand)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

Algiers is a recent immigrant to America. His dad is in prison, and due to a variety of family circumstances he lives with his aunt, who is a single parent.

He has attended three schools in the last three years, and anticipates this year will be the same.

However, on the day he learns about Knowledge Academies, he and his aunt also receive a home visit from an organizational partner that focuses on something called "social emotional learning ".

He and his aunt receive a personal invitation to visit a welcome session at the school, even providing bus transportation, if needed.

The event turns out to be a big community celebration, and they meet families who are similar with a common yearning to join a supportive community.

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

400 students participated in weekly social emotional learning sessions.

100 students, 50 staff, and 30 families participated in a weekly Fitbit Fitness challenge, tracking personal physical activity goals, including monthly celebrations through our family council.

200 families participated in quarterly events, at school, that celebrated the creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration habits of our students.

This year, our team will integrate more robust positive social media messaging, as a platform to share our successes, more broadly.

This year, we will impact over 650 families, while also training future leaders to facilitate similar life, learning, and leadership connections that reinforce children's well-being through robust family engagement.

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Annual Budget

  • $1mil - $5mil

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

In April 2016, our team received a three year grant from the U.S. Department of Education, to replicate the impact of our work.

As a public charter school, we have a strong financial record, dating back to 2012, requiring less than $5 per student in annual fundraising.

A link to our financial history is below.
https://app.box.com/s/fritel0n376cdz7zc1u8c6k4nv9eaqd4

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

Among public schools, there are numerous designs which integrate social-emotional learning and community engagement, as a lever for creating change.

The innovation, within our approach, is the degree to which we have dedicated full-time staff and recurring resources towards strategies that are often distributed among personnel, with other primary job responsibilities.

This has allowed our team to accelerate homegrown innovations with social-emotional learning, fitness, wellness, entrepreneurship, and life strategies that are embedded into our organizational culture.

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

The new federal law provides states greater flexibility in standardized testing mandates for public schools. This presents an opportunity for states to incorporate other measures of success.

This could be used to integrate social-emotional learning into a new educational framework where a child's well being is measured by more than academic content knowledge.

Tennessee just received a federal grant to pioneer the development of social emotional learning standards. Our team was invited to join the TN teacher leader network focused on scaling innovation in districts, statewide.

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)

  • Word of mouth

Program Design Clarity

a) Main beneficiary.
Southeast Nashville, one of the fastest growing and most diverse regions in Tennessee. Our community is comprised of ninety five percent of families which are on free / reduced priced lunch.

b) Main activities.
Year round social emotional, fitness, and wellness programs that help students make stronger connections with their families and surrounding community.

c) Where and How Often.
Our services are provided everyday on a school campus (80,000 square feet) and monthly on a satellite campus (85 acre farm).

d) Who.
85 staff. 20 partner organizations.

Community Leadership

Our program takes place in a very diverse community of students and families. Each has a direct impact on our organizational strategies and this specific project.

Our students and families participate in key organizational decision making, including the capacity to influence financial resources, as influential members, at the top of our organizational chart.

See page 3, https://app.box.com/files/0/f/8058122645/1/f_73707971757.

Age of Children Impacted

  • 6 - 12
  • 12+

Spread Strategies

This year, we are fortunate to launch a new Center for Personalized Learning, comprised of a 10,000 square feet, state-of-the-art event space and digital learning lab.

We are in the process of leveraging this space as a regional hub for training school and district level teams, on how our strategies are implemented, in the context of a tight budget and existing public dollars, not relying heavily on additional grant sources.

Reflect on how your work helps children to thrive. How are you cultivating children’s sense of self, belonging, and purpose through your model?

Our strategies are rooted in providing all of our students an open platform to discover the value of their learning style and the passion of their voice ideas. We create such an environment by empowering our team of adult learners and organizational partners to share the value of diverse ideas and diverse approaches to engage others in learning, reflection, and discovery. This builds momentum towards the power of unity.

Leadership Story

The promise of this work is so deeply embedded into my daily actions that my leadership story feels like a single, seamless continuum. From an aspiring jazz composer to a state education policy adviser, I have valued the power of teamwork and enjoyed the opportunity to mobilize others.

I welcome opportunities to reinforce that it is possible to excel, discover, and explore many areas of talent and creativity within oneself, and as part of a team, that can empower others. I am committed to the pursuit of a collaborative pathway focused on innovation for the benefit of students and families.

Organization's Twitter Handle

@kacademies

Organization’s Facebook Page (URL)

https://www.facebook.com/kayouth.org/
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Attachments (4)

Agenda - Grand Opening - The Center - 08102016.1.pdf

Agenda for our Grand Opening, includes multiple community partners and sample of monthly family calendar which incorporates active living and wellness, for all.

Foundation for the KA Playbook - 07102016.1.pdf

Introduction to the Foundation and Principles of KA. Page 3 includes an organizational chart and displays the essential role of students and families.

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Photo of Leanne
Team

Bring on more alternative education programs!  We need more student centered approaches!  If you're not familiar with Big Picture Learning....check them out.  http://www.bigpicture.org   I'm curious about outcome data....truancy, suspension, juvenile justice involvement in local public schools vs. in your Knowledge Academies.  And what is the graduation rate for your school vs. that of other local schools. Keep up the good work!